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San Diego Opera Board Off To Slow Start

Above: "Don Quixote" is the last scheduled performance at San Diego Opera.

Aired 4/4/14 on KPBS News.

With only one month left to right the ship, sources tell KPBS the board needs to show more progress.

In a special meeting Monday, the San Diego Opera's board of directors gave the institution until the end of April to stave off closure, but sources told KPBS it still hasn’t formed the special committee charged with researching future options.

The board convened on Monday to answer questions from directors who were concerned they didn’t have adequate information before voting on March 19 to close the company and nix the 2015 season, which was to have been the opera’s 50th birthday.

Document

Original Memorandum To Staff About Closure

Original Memorandum To Staff About Closure

March 19th memo to opera staff about severance ...

Document

Updated Memo To Staff About Severance

Updated Memo To Staff About Severance

An updated memo to staff after board votes ...

The board wound up delaying closure from April 13 — after the company's final performance of "Don Quixote" — until April 29. A special committee was to research future options for the opera and examine the company’s finances.

Sources on the board told KPBS that as of late Thursday afternoon no committee has been formed. There’s also no timeline or action plan for its work.

Opera management and leadership also have not answered a letter, sent by a group of board members On March 28, requesting documents that might have led to the proposed shutdown, the sources said. The documents include financial reports, compensation agreements and calendar appointments with possible donors.

Board president Karen Cohn did not respond to an email request for an interview or for answers to questions about the special committee and the documents.

In the meantime, KPBS has obtained documents showing that the five-week severance offered to the staff of the San Diego Opera has been reduced to three weeks. The reason cited was the board’s vote to postpone closing.

The initial paperwork sent to the staff said the opera would close on April 14 and staff would be paid through May 19. A document sent on April 2 said the severance agreement was withdrawn. If the opera closes on April 29, employees still would only be paid through May 19.

The special committee is supposed to look into concerns raised about management during an internal investigation held in late February with opera staff. Board members did not know about the investigation when they voted to close on March 19.

During Monday’s follow-up meeting, board members asked to see the investigation report, according to sources. Board leaders said they were concerned about leaks to the media and were advised by lawyers not to share that information.

Cohn spoke to a cluster of reporters after Monday’s five-hour meeting. She implored San Diegans to buy tickets to this weekend’s performance of “Don Quixote.” She also said the company needs $10 million to save the 2015 season.

Cohn’s mention of a campaign to raise $10 million for the 2015 season came as a surprise to some board members, according to a source, who said it was not an item the board voted on.

Ticket sales to “Don Quixote” are exceeding ticket goals, according to an opera representative.

This story was edited by Lorie Hearn, executive director and editor of inewsource, a KPBS media partner.

Comments

Avatar for user 'Peking_Duck_SD'

Peking_Duck_SD | April 3, 2014 at 8:36 p.m. ― 6 months, 2 weeks ago

They might not make it.

But, I salute them for trying.

There is far more dignity going down with a fight than rolling over and dying like the failed Mr. Campbell tried to do.

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Avatar for user 'aztec69'

aztec69 | April 4, 2014 at 11:22 a.m. ― 6 months, 2 weeks ago

Has it occurred to anyone else or just me that the on-going "soap opera" story of the San Diego Opera's Decline, Fall, and Resurrection would, itself, make a great grand opera? Perhaps Mr. Prebys would be willing to donate a few hundred thousands to commission a composer like John Corgialone or John Cage to compose such a work for a re-born San Diego Not So Grand Opera company?. I'm thinking of something along the line of Strauss's Fledermaus. Just think of all the opportunities for walk on bit parts for local opera donors and politicians? Or if a comedy isn't appropriate how about a tragedy where in the last act Karen Cohn dies of a broken heart in the arms of Ian Campbell as the movers carry the last sets out of the San Diego Opera property warehouse on Commercial?

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Avatar for user 'operafan'

operafan | April 4, 2014 at 1:16 p.m. ― 6 months, 2 weeks ago

Many thanks to KPBS for keeping on top of the opera saga. Please continue to keep us posted and to let the public know in what other ways we can influence the opera board to reverse their horrendous decision to close the opera company.

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